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Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (2009)
by Jon Krakauer
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The true story of American Pat Tillman who made it to the NFL and then gave it all up to fight for his country. He wasn’t the flag waving, god fearing jock I expected and Krakauer (once again) explains what happened in a concise thorough way.
This book is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read. From the horrendous bungling (& subsequent lies to the public) in the Iraqi War to the intentional cover-up about Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire, it’s almost impossible to have any faith left whatsoever in the US military. The myopic decision to go to war in Iraq mirrors the faulty & egotistical optimism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine so much you’d think Putin followed US conduct in Iraq like a grotesque manuscript—let’s send our young scared soldiers into a country we have no place being and make excuses for their tragic failures. All of this was at the cost of attention to the war in Afghanistan, which is referred now in some quarters as the “war on the cheap.” Pat Tillman lost his life for all these reasons, and the military did its utmost best to keep it quiet. Not a book for the faint of heart.
Krakauer demonstrates again the utmost necessity of investigative journalism. He’s one of our best and I’m so grateful for his existence, tenacity, bravery (he spent months on the front lines in Afghanistan), and sheer audacity (much like Tillman’s mother, whose unending attempts to uncover the truth) to take on the highest levels of our military. If you want to understand the recent history of foreign powers in Afghanistan, this will add immensely to your knowledge. It is dated because Osama Bin Laden hadn’t been assassinated yet, but that is irrelevant to this narrative for the most part.
For too long, I avoided selecting this book, thinking I already knew the story and its unfortunate outcome. But I finally gave in and picked it up, due in no small part to my previous enjoyment of Krakauer's earlier books. Once started, I soon regretted waiting so long. Krakauer presents Pat Tillman in very human terms, a patriot for sure, but not as an artificial superhero. The story behind the story of Tillman's unfortunate death in Afghanistan is detailed, and becomes a meaningful portion of the book. Krakauer raises a hint of the possibility of the fabricated heroic death story as being pushed by members of Bush's Administration, but it appears that the source and reasons for the cover-up story reside solely within the Army chain-of-command. I can understand the Military's desires to suppress the story of "friendly-fire" deaths, especially when involving someone of Pat Tillman's status. But the soldiers who pay the ultimate price, their families, and servicemen everywhere deserve to have the truth told about their ultimate sacrifice, and the assurance that battlefield medals awarded are for valor, not politically motivated. And Krakauer makes this point very clearly in this book.
I liked the beginning of this book more than I did the end. It has good summaries of histories, good description of snippets of Pat Tillman's life growing up, some potentially interesting moments from Pat's college life, career and enlistment and a lot of disappointment for the reader. (At least this reader)
The military descriptions are stilted, leaving moments that should have been filled with drama, very boring. The ambush scene, which ends in Pat's death, is boring the first time it is told, at the beginning of the book. It does not improve with the retelling the second time, hundreds of pages later. Also, I take issue the the author's omniscience. He tells his version of the events, without question, then pokes fun at the people who were actually there, who were trying to figure things out. It is the kind of Monday morning quarterbacking Tillman would have scoffed.
Why is Jessica Lynch's story even relevant? Was the miasma of Pat Tillman's story not convincing enough?
Also, why does Pat's story end with 10% of the book remaining. The last 10% was truly the most painful as the author highlights all his disdain for those involved.
I would not recommend this book to anyone.
Mr. Krakauer cobbled together his book in a spirit of desperation. Though he set out in search of Mr. Tillman’s whole story, he didn’t find what he was looking for.
There is a master’s hand evident in this particular depiction of events in a life that will end too soon, meticulously built of pieces carefully chiseled from recent international history, political intrigue, first-hand reporting, thoughtful reading, and a feel for what is most human. The author, like his subject, purposefully strides out on his great battlefield too.
Those who have spent time in the military and have seen it struggle not just with war but with everyday barracks life tend to err on the side of incompetence, while those who never have -- such as Krakauer -- tend to suspect conspiracy.
The best-selling author Jon Krakauer has now told the full story in “Where Men Win Glory.” The combination of Krakauer and Tillman seems hard to resist: Krakauer is a masterly writer and reporter; “Into Thin Air,” his account of a disastrous climbing expedition on Mount Everest, is as riveting and harrowing a book as I’ve ever read. With Tillman, you would think he’d have all he needed to fashion an epic narrative. Unfortunately, he fails to pull it off.
Krakauer -- whose forensic studies of the Emersonian Man in books such as "Into Thin Air" and 'Into the Wild" yield so much insight -- has turned in a beautiful bit of reporting, documenting Tillman's life with journals and interviews with those close to him.
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Wikipedia in English (3)
Irrepressible individualist and iconoclast Pat Tillman walked away from his $3.6 million NFL contract in May 2002 to enlist in the United States Army. Deeply troubled by 9/11, he felt a strong moral obligation to join the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Two years later, he died on a desolate hillside in Afghanistan. Though obvious to most on the scene that a ranger in Tillman's own platoon had fired the fatal shots, the Army aggressively maneuvered to keep this information from Tillman's family and the American public for five weeks following his death, while President Bush repeatedly invoked Tillman's name to promote his administration's foreign policy. Biographer Krakauer draws on his journals and letters, interviews with his wife and friends, conversations with the soldiers who served alongside him, and extensive research in Afghanistan to render this driven, complex, and uncommonly compelling figure as well as the definitive account of the events and actions that led to his death.--From publisher description.
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Where Men Win Glory is the story of Pat Tillman, an NFL football player who gives up a lucrative contract to fight the war in Afghanistan. While serving his country, Tillman is killed. This book weaves together what is essentially a biography of Tillman with a history of the war in Afghanistan (and some of the war with Iraq thrown in for good measure).
The story of Pat Tillman, the man, is pretty fascinating. As you might expect, he is a different type of character, and his motivations and underlying intelligence captivated me. His story alone was worth three stars for the book. He was not this totally "all good" hero, but his character was very impressive, and you couldn't help but admire him.
The real terrible tragedy was that Tillman was dead. A leader and excellent human being lost to the world.
The fact that there are many deaths at war from friendly fire is also a big story that is only touched on briefly. An in depth documentary on those deaths and how they could be prevented would be an interesting angle for a book. But this book focuses on the single narrow incident that Tillman's death by friendly fire was not shared far and wide and that then, the Army brass responsible for the cover up was not adequately chastised for either the resulting death nor the cover-up. It reads like a giant conspiracy theory, and the story is not balanced.
The reality is that the Army was trying to make Tillman, in death as in life, appear like the hero he was. Is that such a huge crime? They gave him the Silver Star and the Purple Heart - - which he would not normally get under the circumstances of his death. Was that right? Probably not. Was that so horrible? In the context of Tillman's belief system, it probably was, but I don't think the Army had that "insider knowledge" of Tillman. They thought he was heroic by just giving up everything he had to be in the army . . .and they didn't want to let that image die. Was it merely a PR stunt? Possibly, but I don't think Krakauer delved deeply enough AT ALL into the Army's motivations . . .he just made assumptions by virtue of their actions, but I felt like I could have written a totally different thesis and supported it with the same facts.
So, this book reads like an in depth 60 Minutes piece, but at the end, the focus on the handling of one man's death in a war was not really worthwhile reading.
But I appreciated that en route, I learned a lot about the war on terror and also had an appreciation for the strength and honor of a standout participant in that war, Pat Tillman. ( )